Friday, September 28, 2012

Won't Back Down — Not!

I might go see a movie this weekend. Maybe Looper or The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Or The Master, if I can find a theater that's not sold out like the ones last weekend.

But I won't be going to see Won't Back Down, the latest bit of school "reform" propaganda funded by Denver millionaire Philip Anschutz (who also funded Waiting for Superman). Won't Back Down is a feature film, though, starring Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal, so it's likely to be seen by a wider audience than Superman.

Not if the Star Tribune's reviewer Colin Covert has anything to say about it, though. His review contains the following scathing remarks:

"Won't Back Down" is to school reform what "Reefer Madness" is to drug policy.... [Stars Davis and Gyllenhaal] play the heartstrings like Yo-Yo Ma in service of a story that is emotionally manipulative, dramatically crude, factually challenged hero/villain hokum. That describes about 81 percent of all movies, but when a film's goal is to move public policy, it's worth commenting on.


It is not a spoiler to reveal that [the newly reformed charter school] becomes a bastion of eager learners and high achievement. Gyllenhaal's adorable dyslexic daughter miraculously conquers her disability at the fade-out.

A notice at the start tells us it is "Inspired by True Events." A good teacher would red-pen "Citation needed" there, because it's all made up.


The film has more than a few amusing passages of the head-slap variety. My favorite is when Davis challenges an assembly of wavering teachers to work without assurance of continued employment. Blazing with righteousness, she castigates them for their greed. Yeah, that sweet $30,000 national average starting salary must explain all the new 7-series BMWs and blinged-out Hummers I see every day when I pass the Field School faculty parking lot. I wonder how they all got that rich? I guess like the heroes of this film, they banded together and fought for what they thought they deserved.

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